by Wendy Giman, 12/18/2013
Courtesy, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Reading Room in Japanese Gallery at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Ave. (at 82nd St.), 212-535-7710, Upper East Side, Manhattan
The Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection of more than 2 million pieces spanning 5,000 years offers a dizzying array of sights including mummies, an Egyptian temple, a Chinese court, a Roman villa's bedroom and rooms full of royal furniture. While seemingly every nook and cranny is packed with visual overload, there are a few "secret" places to duck into to collect your thoughts. Abutting the Japanese wing sits an often-empty reading room appointed with furniture by George Nakashima, the Japanese-American woodworker and architect renowned for his contributions to the American craft movement. Nakashima's American black walnut chair is sculpted perfectly to fit the human form, with hand-shaved hickory spindles that cradle the back and give ever slightly when leaned on, while the table's natural grain gives the illusion of three-dimensional ripples across the surface, a much treasured quality among woodworkers. (Fun fact: The museum asked Nakashima to raise the height of the chairs for the room by 3 inches to better accommodate Americans' long legs. That later became the standard height for the chairs.) Take a seat, but bring your own reading material—or simply sit for a spell in this spare but glorious setting.